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Manitoba teams hit the ice at Scotties

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CHARLOTTETOWN — Team Canada's Jennifer Jones and Team Manitoba's Cathy Overton-Clapham exchanged greetings — and not much else — here at the Charlottetown Civic Centre this morning as both teams got their first look at the ice for tomorrow's start of the 2011 Scotties Tournament of Hearts.

The two teams, whose history and tempestuous relationship is the most sensational storyline heading into the normally sedate Canadian womens curling championship, practiced on the same morning session, separated by one sheet of ice. They didn't interact on-ice, but did run into one another under the stands prior to practice.

"I saw her this morning and said hello," Overton-Clapham reported following practice.

"We passed each other, and, yeah," said Jones.

The two teams have not played one another since Jones fired Overton-Clapham last spring as her third on the three-time defending Canadian champion.

Overton-Clapham subsequently cobbled together a team over the summer and surprised many by winning the Manitoba womens title in Altona last month to advance to this event.

While the Jones and Overton-Clapham foursomes have both played at cash spiel events this winter, they have not actually faced each other on the ice yet this season. They will do so at least once here, however, in a round-robin game next Wednesday evening that Calgary Herald curling writer Allen Cameron has already proclaimed the most "compelling women's curling game" ever played.

Calm down, said Jones second Jill Officer. "I think people are making more of it right now than it needs to be," said Officer. "There's been thousands of curling games in the past that have been great, well-curled games that have been where people walk away from saying, 'Wow, that was a great game to watch.'

"So just because of the history that happened, doesn't mean it's going to be a great game."

Maybe so, but Overton-Clapham says there's no denying this one will be special. "Would I be lying if I said we didn't want to go out and win this game? Yeah, of course — I want to win every game.

"Will it be extra special? For sure. I find it quite exciting that everyone's talking about it and we're going to be part of a game everyone's talking about. I won't be watching at home. I'll be on the ice."

Jones, as she has all season, downplayed the rivalry with Overton-Clapham. "For us, it's just another game in the round-robin and it's really nothing more than that," Jones said, denying the game or her relationship with Overton-Clapham could become a distraction here as her team attempts to win their record-tying fourth straight Canadian championship.

"Even if we're asked questions every day, it's just going to be one game at a time. You learn — you can't look to the end of the round-robin. You just can't. It's not going to be a challenge at all. You guys might not be able to sleep at night, but we will be."

The teams here will play an individual skills competition this afternoon and then attend a gala opening banquet tonight. Overton-Clapham plays Saskatchewan on Draw 1 Saturday afternoon and then NWT/Yukon Saturday night, while Jones has just one game Saturday evening against Quebec.

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